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U-21 USWNT Take Gold at JPAC After Defeating Argentina in a Shootout

SAINT MICHAEL, Barbados – The U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team rematched Argentina in the final of the 2023 Junior Pan American Championships (JPAC) at Wildey Hockey Centre located in the Sir Garfield Sobers Sport Complex in Saint Michael, Barbados. Propelled by passion and determination, the Junior United Eagles tied Argentina 1-1 at the end of regulation, then executed on their shootouts to win 4-1 in four rounds.

It was a successful tournament all around for the Junior team, who will return home with both an FIH Junior World Cup qualification and a gold medal.

"Qualifying for the Junior World Cup and winning gold were the two goals this team set for themselves," said U-21 USWNT Head Coach Tracey Paul. "They got it done. Throughout the tournament the team showed growth, effort and when needed - resilience. Congratulations to all."

Right from the start, USA looked ready to take on Argentina – a team they had lost to 2-0 earlier in Pool play. The first ten minutes of the match, USA and Argentina traded possession, both being shut down by each other’s defense and midfield. USA had several nice passing patterns and pushes up the field that lacked the final piece needed to break into the circle. Despite this, USA looked strong and in control. A few good defensive efforts also helped USA to keep up their intensity up the field, but they were unable to break into the circle. The quarter ended without a score, the two teams tied at 0-0.

The second quarter saw play pick up in intensity, with all the excitement of a true final. Argentina pushed first on the attack, but USA’s Mia Abello (Houston, Texas) stepped up to intercept a pass, and was fouled by Sol Pagella who was given a green card. At 19 minutes in, it was Argentina who earned the first penalty corner of the match. The straight shot from the top was saved and deflected out by USA goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz (Houston, Texas). As the Argentina attack looked to continue putting on pressure, USA’s Abello stepped up with an intercept and looked to make a fast break up the field, but was stopped in the midfield. Back on the offensive, USA’s Ryleigh Heck (Berlin, N.J.) had an opportunity in the circle and took a quick backhand shot that was called out for backside of the stick. Wasting no time now that they had with the ball, Argentina was all the way up in their attacking end after a long pass up the lefthand side. USA was able to clear the ball out, but after a video review requested by Argentina, the call was reversed to a penalty corner for Las Leonas. The shot was saved by Skubisz, and USA defense earned a free hit coming out.

The two teams both continued to have chances up on attack, but none with the momentum needed to get a good look on cage. At the 29 minute mark, Argentina was awarded a penalty corner, but after video review, the call was reversed to give the USA defense a free hit coming out. With just 30 seconds left to play in the half, Olivia Bent-Cole (Philadelphia, Pa.) dribbled into the circle and was pushed by an Argentina defender, earning USA what could be a crucial penalty corner. The set piece was a straight shot from the top of the circle that went out wide over the endline. The Junior United Eagles went into halftime having played an excellent 30 minutes against a very strong team, and with a tied score of 0-0.

 Just two minutes into the third quarter, Argentina was awarded another penalty corner, but their quick backhand shot was called coming out. It was 35 minutes in when Tamer earned USA the penalty corner that broke everything open. The ball was slipped left to Jans Croon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), who sent it up and across to Regan Underwood (Sinking Spring, Pa.), who finished in the cage to put USA up 1-0. The goal ignited the Argentina offense, who began pressuring even harder than before. At 38 minutes, Las Leonas earned two penalty corners back to back, which were both blocked by USA’s defense. High energy from both teams led to a few quick changes in possession, as defense looked to be stronger than attack for both teams. A USA turnover in the midfield led to a big break for Argentina, who moved quickly into the circle, but their shot was blocked by Skubisz. Soon after at 44 minutes, Argentina earned the penalty corner that would give them the equalizer. A slip left and powerful shot from captain Valentina Raposo put Argentina on the board, and the score was 1-1 going into the final quarter.

A fourth quarter full of high energy and a quick pace from both sides made for frequent turnovers. Argentina’s defense stopped several USA chances, including a penalty corner earned by Heck at the 46th minute. The same went for the other side, as solid defense from the likes of Abello, Skubisz, and Kiersten Thomassey (New Albany, Ohio) shut down a flurry of Argentina opportunities in the span of a few minutes. At the 57 minute mark, USA’s Katie Dixon (Cary, N.C.) laid down a big tackle and headed up the field, but again the red, white, and blue were unable to convert. In the final seconds, Argentina made a final push into the USA circle, but the defensive line came through with a free hit coming out. After a battle of a full 60 minutes, the score was tied at 1-1, and the game headed to shootouts.

Heck was first up for USA, using the same spin move she had used in the previous game’s shootout to smoothly push the ball into the net. The first player up for Argentina attempted to utilize her quick stick work, but Skubisz stayed up on her feet and in front of the goal to deny the attempt – putting USA up 1-0 after the first round. Lauren Wadas (Annville, Pa.) went second for the Junior United Eagles, hitting it in to the side of the Argentina goalkeeper. More stellar goalkeeping from Skubisz kept Argentina out and put USA up 2-0 after the second round. Third for USA, Abigail Tamer (Whitemore Lake, Mich.) quickly snuck it around the goalkeeper as she tried to come out and intercept. Number three for Argentina was able to put the ball in the cage, keeping the shootouts going another round, as USA led 3-1. It was Underwood who sealed the deal for USA, making the fourth shootout attempt in a row for USA by using a spin move and lifting it into the net. USA’s dominant 4-1 shootout performance earned them the hard-fought victory over Argentina.

USA's Tamer was honored with the tournament's Most Valuable Player award. 

#JPAC2023


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